Monday, April 13, 2009

Obama Pulled Trigger on Captain's Rescue from Somali Pirates

Reports out of Washington confirm that it was President Barack Obama who granted U.S. forces what aides called "the authority to use appropriate force to save the life of the captain." In a dramatic rescue mission led by the Navy SEALS, US forces rescued the captain who had been held hostage for four days while killing three Somali pirates.

President Obama has always opposed the war in Iraq and was viewed by most of his opponents as being weak in military affairs. Unlike his two Democratic predecessors (Jimmy Carter in Iran and Bill Clinton in Haiti), he successfully launched a military action.

What follows are excerpts from the Washington Post story about the dramatic Indian Ocean rescue by the Navy SEALS:

Throughout the past four days, White House officials played down Obama's role in the hostage drama. Until yesterday, he made no public statements about the pirates.

In fact, aides said yesterday, Obama had been briefed 17 times since he returned from his trip abroad, including several times from the White House Situation Room. And without giving too many details, senior White House officials made it clear that Obama had provided the authority for the rescue.

"The president's focus was on saving and protecting the life of the captain," one adviser said. Friday evening, after a National Security Council telephone update, Obama granted U.S. forces what aides called "the authority to use appropriate force to save the life of the captain." On Saturday at 9:20 a.m., Obama went further, giving authority to an "additional set of U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions."

A top military official, Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of the Fifth Fleet, explained that Obama issued a standing order that the military was to act if the captain's life was in immediate danger.

"Our authorities came directly from the president," he said. "And the number one authority for incidents if we were going to respond was if the captain's life was in immediate danger. And that is the situation in which our sailors acted."

After the rescue ended, White House officials immediately offered expanded information about Obama's role, though the president simply released a statement praising the troops and expressing pride in the captain's bravery.

The operation pales in scope and complexity to the wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Obama's adversaries are unlikely to be mollified by his performance in a four-day hostage drama.

Nonetheless, it may help to quell criticism leveled at Obama that he came to office as a Democratic antiwar candidate who could prove unwilling or unable to harness military might when necessary.

From the Washington Post, an account of how the mission was accomplished:

The SEALs set up operations on the USS Bainbridge, which had been communicating with the four pirates via radio and had used smaller boats to make deliveries of food and water to their lifeboat. Yet the pirates were growing increasingly agitated, the officials said. At one point Saturday, the pirates opened fire on one of the smaller U.S. Navy craft that approached.

As the seas grew rougher, the Bainbridge offered to tow the lifeboat to calmer waters, and the pirates agreed, linking up the lifeboat to the destroyer with a towing cable that left 75 to 80 feet between the two vessels. Capt. Phillips at the time was tied up in the lifeboat, having been bound -- and occasionally beaten -- by the pirates ever since he had attempted to escape by jumping into the water on Friday, the officials said.

Meanwhile, one of the pirates, estimated to be between 16 and 20 years old, asked to come aboard the Bainbridge to make a phone call. He had been stabbed in the hand during an altercation with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and needed medical care. "He effectively gave himself up," a senior military official said. The Navy then allowed that pirate to speak with the others in hopes that he could persuade them to give up.

The three other pirates, however, showed signs of growing irritation, as the Bainbridge, 18 miles from shore, towed the lifeboat further out to sea, the senior military official said. "They had no promise of money, clearly no passage. The one ticket they had was the captain," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

"In the last discussion, they said, 'If we don't get what we want, we will kill the captain,' " the official said.

Soon afterward, two pirates moved to one of the hatches of the lifeboat and stuck their heads out. The third pirate advanced toward the captain and pointed his AK-47 straight at Phillips's back, the rifle touching it or inches away, the official said.

U.S. military observers thought that Phillips was about to be shot. SEAL snipers, who were positioned on a deck at the stern of the Bainbridge, an area known as the fantail, had the three pirates in their sights. The on-scene commander gave the snipers authority to fire.

"As soon as the snipers had a clear shot at the guy who had the rifle, they shot him and the other two in the hatches," the senior military official said.

A member of the Special Operations team slid down the tow line into the water and climbed aboard the lifeboat. Phillips was then put in a small craft and taken to the Bainbridge.

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plez sez: when i think of pirates, i have visions of old merchant ships of the 1700's, errol flynn, and cannon balls. buried treasure, long john silver, a peg-legged man walking the plank, or "mutiny on the bounty." it still seems strange that there is talk of pirates taking ships hostage in the 21st century.

how is it that a group of swashbucklin' somali pirates riding in speedboats could commandeer a large tanker as it makes its way in the open seas? maybe they need to outfit these boats with some cannons! something tells me that if these ships started shooting back, the piracy problem would quickly abate!

it's great to hear that PRESIDENT OBAMA was briefed and took the appropriate action to save American lives on the high seas. plezWorld is only guessing here, but i Obama isn't the wimp those right-wing wacko's wanted him to be!

~ ~ Citations ~ ~

Read the Washington Post article about how President Obama authorized the rescue mission.

Read the Washington Post article about how the captain was rescued by Navy SEALS.

Read the article about the high seas rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips.
Read the account of the daring rescue of the American captain.

Read the article about piracy on the high seas.

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Unknown said...

I think the jury is still out on this incident to this extent. The on scene commander took action when it appeared the hostage was about to be killed. That is not the same as the military taking action to rescue the guy under orders issued by national command authority (the President). So my question is why didn't the President affirmatively order the military to effect a rescue of a US citizen under these circumstances? A destroyer is on station and at the time of this rescue, they were TOWING the boat. What is the point of putting a U.S. destroyer on station and not using that firepower?

The course of events right now suggests to me that the military were not given orders to rescue the guy, in fact, may have been told that his release should be secured peacefully unless there was no other way. I've got a problem with that.

Unknown said...

Obama and his administration handled this incident with cool and calm professionalism. They brought in snipers and then they took the three shots. Well done in all respects.

Obama continues to show that he and his peeps are handling our nation's affairs in a way that brings pride and confidence.

peace, Villager

plez... said...

the jury is still out on what?!? the president received over 17 briefings on the situation in the indian ocean and instructed the navy to take whatever actions were necessary to ensure the safe return of captain phillips. did you want him to tell the navy SEALS the EXACT moment that they were to shoot and kill the pirates?

you right-wing BUFFOONS are sooo friggin' ridiculous, it's laughable. you give bumblin' W. a pass for 8 years as he eff'd up EVERYTHING situation he touched from 9/11 to katrina to the illegal invasion of iraq! your warped sense of loyalty to the far right ideology should frighten YOU!

i'm with you, brother... Obama has shown since Day One that he has the decorum, the poise, the grace, and the intelligence to lead this country through its darkest days... his presence is refreshing. and i'm sure captain phillips' family is glad that Obama is at the helm.